D-Link Boxee Box media streamer (preview)
D-Link Boxee Box hands-on preview: What is the D-Link Boxee Box?
- HD streaming, two USB ports, SD card slot, support for online video streams, RF remote control, HMDI cable included
- Geographic location limits the amount of online content that can be viewed
The D-Link Boxee Box offers plenty of online content that's worth watching, but it also has a lot of content that can't be watched here in Australia. Ultimately, you might find it frustrating if all you want to do is watch online video streams. However, if you purchase it with the primary intention of using it as a network streamer for local content, and secondarily for watching YouTube and other online services, you'll be satisfied.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
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The D-Link Boxee Box is a stylish little media streaming device that has been designed to run the Boxee interface software. The D-Link Boxee Box can be connected to your TV using HDMI and it supports Full HD playback. The beauty of the Boxee Box is that not only can it play content from directly attached USB drives or network devices, it can also access a large range of video and audio content from the Web.
The hardware is relatively basic: the Boxee Box has two USB 2.0 ports, an SD card slot, 10/100 Ethernet, HDMI output, optical audio output and analog (RCA) audio output. On the inside it has specifications that are akin to a netbook; it features an Intel Atom CPU, Intel graphics, 1GB of RAM and it runs a Linux operating system. In addition to having an Ethernet port, integrated 802.11n Wi-Fi will let you connect to a home network wirelessly.
Boxee Box in action.
The Boxee Box has a 'submerged cube' design; it looks like a cube that has partially sunk into the surface it's sitting on. It looks a lot larger in promotional material than it actually is in real life. It has an attractive lime green logo that illuminates once you press the on button and this logo, along with the cooling fan for the CPU, which makes a slight whirring sound, is how you know the Boxee Box is switched on and operating. There is no LCD, nor any other indicator lights.
If you don't like the design of the Boxee Box (some of us think it looks very cool) then you can hide it somewhere in your TV cabinet permanently. It ships with a radio frequency remote control, rather than an infrared remote, so the Boxee Box doesn't have to be in line of sight of the remote control. The remote itself has two sides: one side with controls for navigating the interface and a QWERTY keyboard on the other, so that you can easily search for content or use the Boxee Browser.
Viewing content on the Boxee Box via popular apps.
When you first run the Boxee Box, you have to create an account or link it up to your Facebook account. This is because it is a social application that allows you to share what you watch with your contacts. It works with Facebook, Twitter and Google Buzz, although you're not forced to share information through these services if you don't want to — each video gives you the option of clicking an icon to share it with your friends.
Once you've created an account (or used Facebook) and logged in, you are then able to set up your TV screen's aspect ratio and size and let the Boxee Box scan your drives for content. Navigating around the Boxee interface isn't difficult as content is split up into categories — movies, TV shows, music, photos, apps and other files — and there is a virtual tonne of content that can be checked out online. However, not all of it can be accessed by Australians.
You can watch YouTube content without any problems, but you will run into problems when trying to access copyright-restricted content.
Because of regional copyright restrictions, not all of the content that is listed by the Boxee Box can be played. It's a very hit-and-miss process: you will see plenty of videos listed on the screen and you'll have to click on each one to see if it will play; only those that have been independently released or those that are available from Australian content providers will be playable. Basically, anything that you can play on a content provider's Web site should also be playable through the Boxee Box. As an example, content from Comedy Central won't be playable, but content from ABC's iView will be.
YouTube and Justin.tv videos, TED Talks, and practically any site that has video content can be accessed through the Boxee Box; furthermore, you can view content by subscribing to RSS feeds, installing apps that have pointers to content (there are apps that have content just for kids, for example), or just use the Boxee Browser to watch content directly from Web sites.
The Boxee Box supports almost every video and audio format known to man and its performance is great. High-definition videos look crystal clear, they play back without any stuttering and the audio quality will be sublime if you've hooked up a good set of speakers. The Box supports SMB (Samba) shares and Windows shared folders and it will find any content that is shared on your home network.
You can also bookmark content from a Web browser while you're at work, for example, and watch it when you get home.
In addition to videos, the Boxee Box will also play music. It doesn't support playlists just yet, so it will sequentially play all music files that are located in a shared folder. Likewise, you can view photos off an SD card, USB key or a shared network location, and slideshows can be displayed while music is playing in the background.
Although the Boxee software promises multitudes of free video content from online sources, many services are only available in the United States. We think you should consider the Boxee Box primarily as a local media streamer for viewing content from your computer system or attached hard drives on your big-screen TV, with the added bonus it will also allow you to watch YouTube and many other online streaming video services independently of a laptop or desktop PC.
Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.
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